Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Ms. Jeglinski,

Three years ago Dylan took a life for the first time. To protect his friends, he must do it once again. Fortunately, it’s a task he enjoys performing.

Sixteen-year-old Dylan awakens in the hospital and discovers the army base he calls home is under attack. Someone has unleashed what appears to be sarin gas. Dylan stumbles across the airstrip barely making it onto one of the packed evacuation planes. The escape doesn't go as planned and the plane crashes on an uninhabited island.

Dylan gathers himself after the crash and discovers that five other army brats are also alive. Together they hunt for food, build a shelter, and search for a way home.  Dylan does his best to keep his distance from the group, both physically and emotionally. After all, having homicidal urges isn't something that makes people want to be your friend. Six-year-old David, the youngest survivor, has other plans and constantly follows Dylan around. Dylan gives into the boy’s need for friendship as it provides a nice distraction from the no-so-clandestine romantic dramas occurring within the group.

One day, soldiers appear on the island. But they aren't there to take the survivors home, they've come to finish them off. Dylan grows concerned over David's safety appointing himself the boy's guardian. After members of the group are killed, Dylan gives into his murderous urges to keep David safe. What starts out as a way to protect David quickly turns into an enjoyable game of predator and prey. Until David disobeys an order to remain hidden and witnesses Dylan dispatching a soldier. Dylan questions if the mercenaries or his carnal thirst is what David really needs to be protected from.

SURVIVING SARIN is a 69,000 word YA thriller and the first of a trilogy, best described as I Hunt Killers meets The 100.

I am a high school biology teacher and I also serve as chapter director of an organization that trains rescued dogs for military veterans. I belong to SCBWI, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. I have been published in Sisters in Crime’s First Draft July 2014. I agree with you that the phone call and getting to know someone personally should be just as important in deciding whether or not to offer representation. It would be hard to have the working relationship that an author and agent must have if the two clash. I would love to know if someone is blunt vs. sugar coats something, or if they are long winded vs. to the point. Kudos for being a furbabies foster parent. Many rescues & shelters could not do the work they do without people like you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm Regards,


“I want your dad to sign this and return it to me tomorrow,” Mrs. Harwood says as she slides my English essay across her desk for me to see.

She’s a real pain in my a**, and my step-father, Rob, is going to kill me when he sees I failed this paper. I tried my best, but a comparative essay on how life experiences shape who a person becomes is not something that comes easy. Then to have to relate it back to a character from a book… I don’t think a character even exists that has gone through what I have. Or has the secrets I have.

“Whatever,” I mumble, grabbing the paper as I head out the door.

The walk home is arduous, and my headache doesn’t help. This is the fifth time I have gotten a headache in the past two days.

“Hey Cynthia. Where’s Rob?” I ask when I get home, preparing for at least an hour long lecture.

“Work.” Her tiny eyes focus on the singing horses on the screen.

“He just left and didn’t get you a babysitter?” Strange, Rob never leaves Cynthia home alone--she’s only four. And he has been very overprotective since the implementation of the base curfew.

She shrugs then adds, “Daddy said not to answer the door, and that you would be home soon. And you have to make dinner.”

Most likely this has something to do with why there is a curfew on the base


Jaime said...

Consider cutting down the verbiage in your query considerably. Additionally, it's a little jarring that the events in the first page (seemingly) have nothing to do with the events mentioned in the query.

I'd cut the first three lines entirely, and see if you can start your novel a bit later to more closely match the events laid out in the query.

Ann Noser said...

The query seems more like a synopsis to me than a query.

The overall premise sounds interesting, and the frustration comes through loud and clear in the first 250 words.

Good personalization on the fostering animals bit. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

This was one of the few entries I remembered after I finished formatting them. The concept is quite intriguing, and I see a lot of potential for a psychological thriller.

That said, I do have a few concerns with the premise, the biggest of which is that I can't imagine rooting for a main character who likes killing so much. He comes across as a sociopath. His relationship with David does humanize him a bit, but I think you could do more to make us care about him.

Also, why are the other survivors also kids? If there's a good reason, then I'm willing to go along with it, but as it stands, it smacks of author manipulation. And I noticed a few missing commas--after "Dylan stumbles across the airstrip" in the second paragraph and after "Dylan grows concerned over David's safety" in the fourth--but those are easy fixes (though you might want to keep an eye out for similar missing commas throughout the manuscript).

As for the first page, I'm going to disagree with Jaime and say that I didn't find it jarring. I assume that the attack is imminent. You might skip ahead to whatever he does to land himself in the hospital, but if that's just around the corner, then I think this starting point is fine. It's clear that something is up.

Good luck!

Elizabeth Stoever said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Stoever said...

Great story idea. I'm curious to know what task this kid performs that gives him the right to kill. And why does a kid have to do this not an adult? Talking a bit more about this might give the reader a better sense of this world.

I think your query can be tightened. For example delete the sentence about the tear gas, it's an unnecessary detail IMO. I don't think we need to know that the MC stumbles either just that he boards a plane, which crashes on an island. Delete that the escape doesn't go as planned which to me is self-evident.

This seems like a awesome story with some really high stakes. With shows like Dexter (I know there's others) there is definitely an audience of readers who find these kind of characters fascinating, if not sympathetic. Just make him redeemable/relatable in a few other ways maybe?

In your first 250, I think your voice sounds really authentic. I would just say if you're going to swear in your novel, swear proudly! Books, thank god, aren't censored like TV.

Spike Taterman (M.P.) said...

The query reads too much like a synopsis. the first paragraph--well, it's hard to immediately start rooting for a protagonist who enjoys killing people. I suggest starting with some other hook, some reason we can care about him first.

Aside from being too long, you have some grammatical speed bumps, misplaced or missing commas, etc. I just never get a sense of why Dylan has these murderous urges. And what seems like it should be the hook--Dylan struggling between wanting to protect the boy and wanting to kill him--seems buried deep within the query.
Your bio goes on too long, with a lot of useless information. All we care about is your writing creds, and anything about yourself that makes you uniquely qualified to write this book. In the last part, you are taking a familiar tone with someone you don't yet know, and frankly it comes across as sucking up.
Best of luck,

Kara said...

We commenters probably sound like a broken record, but here it is again: This reads a lot more like a synopsis than a query. Your first paragraph is a good hook and is a great way to kick things off, but remember to limit the rest of it to the conflict and stakes. Good luck!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: It's a bit too long and does indeed read more like a synopsis. I need premise and conflict and character. Moment to moment is not necessary. I might have an issue with her MC that likes to kill; I'd need to know his reasons. And while I can appreciate that you did some research on me, the personal comments actually felt a tad too familiar to me, be careful you don't go too far. At least tell me you found this out on twitter: I follow you on twitter and commend you for your work with foster kittens. Simpler, right? Not scary. And I tell you this because I've gotten some really creepy queries, people quoting my home address even, so anything that's too familiar immediately sets up a red flag. And I'm sure it would with others. So just think how you would appreciate being approached. Thanks for understanding.

Pages: Why have three lines in one scene only to move to move to him walking home. Why not start with him walking home thinking his step dad is going to be ticked off when he gets this paper?

Overall: the premise just isn't my cup of tea but I can see it's appeal. Could be really gritty.

TS Liard said...

Thanks so much. Dylan is a sociopath. Kind of like the book I LOVE SERIAL KILLERS. The sarin attack isnt a tear gas. It's a biological weapon and its the reason the military base is attacked, which is what causes the kids to be on an evacuation plane that crashes. So that is a needed detail.

I will look at shortening it down so it reads more like a query then a synopsis. I appreciate the feedback.